Proposed legislation and policy solutions range from expanding Maine’s oceanic sovereignty to 12 miles to removing tax benefits for businesses that prohibit or ban sales of Maine products
AUGUSTA – Legislative Republicans unveiled legislation during a press briefing on Tuesday to help protect Maine’s harvest and manufacturing industries and discourage influence or interference of those industries by outside environmental and other activist groups. The initiative is in response to moves by environmental activist groups to hurt Maine’s lobster industry.
“This should not be a political issue. Supporting a $1.5 billion industry in the State of Maine that is a cornerstone of our economy should not be a partisan issue,” said Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook. “It’s now time for the Legislature to do its part.”
According to Stewart, the bill he presented Tuesday, LD 191 “An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding Certain Business Equipment Tax Benefits,” aims to prevent companies such as Whole Foods in Portland from discriminating against Maine industries based on third-party certifications. Whole Foods announced last year that the company was ending sales of Maine lobster.
“An overpriced yuppie chain of grocery stores that does not represent the best interests of Maine and certainly does not represent the best interests of Maine lobstermen and women, they’ve blindly followed this incorrect science that is jeopardizing and continuing to put a black eye on an industry that is crucial,” he said. “And at the same time, they’re profiting and benefiting from Maine’s tax code.”
House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said the issue was important to him as a lobsterman. He said another initiative Republicans have put forward include extending Maine’s oceanic sovereignty to the full 12 miles allowed under international law and enjoyed by other coastal states.
“The federal government is overregulating and they have caused regulations that are essentially going to make lobster fishing in federal waters illegal in six years,” he said. “I think it is time that Maine reclaims her sovereignty and goes out to 12 miles and regulates waters out to 12 miles. I think that would be an important step and something I look forward to working on.”
For Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Washington, who is the Senate Republican Lead for the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, Maine lobstermen have been at a disadvantage for some time due to gear requirements, fuel and bait costs, and the closure of vital fishing areas. The interference of outside groups has only made a dire situation worse.
“Maine’s iconic crustacean is a billion-dollar industry dating back more than a century, but what is more concerning for most of us has been interference in one of our heritage industries from outside groups that care more about right whales than the livelihoods of people.” she said during the briefing. “There’s something wrong with that calculus, especially when the underlying math is wrong.”
Rep. Jim Thorne, R-Carmel, is the ranking Republican House member on the Marine Resources Committee and he recalled when Faulkingham once took him out on his boat to show what lobstering was all about. “This is one of Maine’s most important issues currently going on,” Thorne said. “If we work half as hard on this issue as lobstermen work, we’ll be working twice as hard as we normally do because the lobster industry is a tough gig.”